(I love my Dad, I really do. Just today, he snarked about my teenage cousins "always going on about Facebook, always ner-ner-ner on their phones, jeez, can't you just enjoy life for once?". He's almost at the point where I could base a comedy routine about him and his good old-fashioned shouty ways, bless him.)
Anyway, I wanted to conduct a little bit of music education/criticism - if only for myself - every week. And if there's one thing I've noticed about pop/rock music in general is that there seems to be a limited barrel of song names/themes one can choose from. So what better way to celebrate style, composition and originality by pitching two similarly-named songs against each other in a simplistic battle for musical supremacy?
And so I present to you: The Monday Music Duel.
I'm not starting small, either. First up, let's fight two hugely significant and popular songs of the late 20th century, by two of its arguably most important bands.
One by Metallica
One by U2
Tough, huh? Very tough, I'd imagine. Unless of course you're a metalhead, in which case I imagine Metallica shoots through without argument. One by Metallica is based on the 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, about a solider trapped in his own body after losing his limbs in war. This song, from 1989's ...And Justice for All (and boy, did I see that phrase Nikkoed on a lot of pencil cases at school), is an exercise in building tension, as soft and slow notes forming its famous opening riff give way to a throaty chorus ("Hold my breath as I wish for death"), eventually slamming into a thumping drum solo and the machine gun guitar riff. The film clip has scenes from the movie of the book to emphasise the horror of the soldier's situation.
I've never seen Metallica live, but I understand this is a crowd favourite at any gig. I can believe that; it's perfect fodder for throwing that mop of metalhead long hair around and sloshing a few beers over your buddy before throwing up the horns. I find the final minute or so disorientating, but I realise that's intentional, and the song needs the length to make its point.
Contrast that with U2's offering from 1991's Achtung Baby. One is the kind of rock ballad that even I find it hard to be cynical about. It's so low-key, but so musically complex. It never builds to the fire that Metallica does, but it achieves a white-hot burn by the time Bono's lamenting "Love is a temple, love a higher law/ You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl". The song's key message is "We're one - but we're not the same"; that yes, we're all in this together, but we're not some hippy bullshit unified creature of light and joy and whatever, and we've just all got to get along.
Apparently, the band's super-producer Brian Eno didn't like the song to begin with. Which is fine until you realise that ENO is ONE SPELLED BACKWARDS. Spooky. He must've come round eventually, as One is regularly voted highly in lists of "Best Songs of All Time" and "Best Lyrics of All Time". Say what you like about U2, but One is just that good.
I have had the pleasure of seeing U2 live, when they toured Brisbane in late 2010. It's my favourite U2 song after Beautiful Day, and they opened with that, so from that point on it was a bunch of songs then One. And I certainly wasn't disappointed.
VERDICT: U2, by a nose.
Do you agree or vehemently hate me now in that way only the internet can? Would love to hear your comments for or against below. Next Monday I'll announce the popular vote.
Thanks again to Dan Beeston for coming through with another logo for me!